Basil El Halwagy intervenes in our consciousness and public spaces at an epic level. Epic in the literal sense. Each of his Fine Art Superheroes seems to have stepped into Boston’s parades, block parties or live-streamed events from the realm of legend or mythology.
Doñagdeo, El Halwagy’s avatar for transformation, is a sinuous spell of emerald green, rich gold and ruby red. Patterned with Middle Eastern filigree, Doñagdeo emerges from and intertwines with the city’s architectural details: looks upward at vaulted arches, backward at history embedded in and shifted across the building blocks of a metropolis.
Like all of El Halwagy’s superheroes, Doñagdeo is a character, a costume, but also a dancing body—performing ritualistic gestures that slice flowing, geometrical patterns into spaces where the air is thick with power accumulated in the past and wielded in the present.
Doñagdeo also embodies a call for revision of outmoded models of heroism. The motifs that each of El Halwagy’s heroes is grounded in highlight our aching need for icons relevant to 21st century concerns.
Electrostar’s tessellated interplay of blue and white stars and hexagrams, transferred directly from the door of a mosque in El Halwagy’s native Egypt, creates an immediate simultaneity between ‘here’ and ‘there’, resonant to a planet full of migrants, hearts split between timezones. And Untitled Man, whose “creatory system” flows rope-like across his limbs, has a blank face. He stands in for our generative capacity, innovation, a readiness to leap into new form when the spark of inspiration strikes.
Especially important now is El Halwagy’s incarnation of protest:
Remon is dappled with single letters of Arabic script. It is as if smoke from inflamed cries of injustice has risen up and enveloped this body.
The only legible word in the calligraphy rippling across Remon’s skin is the Arabic glyph for “NO!” resounded with equal strength from every angle, while the head, perhaps just slightly above the fray, bears a Sufi emblem for divinity.
El Halwagy’s work is bold, radioactive wizardry, encouraging us to step, larger than life, into epic roles, and shape new ways of being beyond current imagination.
— Heather Kapplow
Egyptian/American artist Basil El Halwagy is the creator of the Fine Art Superheroes. El Halwagy creates wearable art-characters and produces performances and photographic works, in collaboration with contemporary dancers. El Halwagy draws inspiration from his experience growing up in Cairo, Egypt; a uniquely Arab, Egyptian, and metropolitan city.
In 2020, El Halwagy's photographs were featured in AREA CODE art fair, an online exhibition project curated by Octavio Zaya. In the fall of 2020 El Halwagy self-produced Origins Performance Series, A live performance series streaming on youtube and featuring the Fine Art Superheroes. El Halwagy has brought performance art to the Mills Gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts, Mobius Art Space, and FigmentBoston. In November of 2020, El Halwagy received the Red Bull Arts and Culture microgrant, and in February 2021, he opened Two If By Sea, a solo exhibition at Atlantic Wharf Gallery in Boston, with funding and support from the Fort Point Arts Community.